In Times of Drought or Flood, One Emperor’s Personal Appeal

In the early years of the Tang Dynasty, it had been raining non-stop for more than a month, threatening farmers’ crops near the capital. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
In the early years of the Tang Dynasty, it had been raining non-stop for more than a month, threatening farmers’ crops near the capital. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Throughout history, mankind has turned to prayer when the land was ravaged by floods and droughts. Whatever the circumstances, changing the will of heaven was never easy. Emperor Xuanzong, ruler of the Tang Dynasty from 712-756, once made a personal appeal for fair weather for the sake of his people, and this benevolent deed left behind a story for future generations.

Emperor Xuanzong (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Emperor Xuanzong. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

In the early years of the Tang Dynasty, it had been raining non-stop for more than a month, threatening farmers’ crops near the capital. The emperor ordered his people to pray for fair weather, but despite all their entreaties, the rain continued.

One day, Xuanzong told his people in the inner court: “Long ago, Emperor Tang (founder of the Shang Dynasty, 1675-1646 B.C.) offered himself as a sacrifice to heaven during a drought after rebuking himself for six things. Rain started falling before he could end his life, and the disaster was avoided. As a ruler, I feel ashamed for not living up to his example. Now, during this disaster, how will people evaluate me?”

One day, Xuanzong told his people in the inner court, “Long ago, Emperor Tang (founder of the Shang Dynasty, 1675-1646) offered himself as a sacrifice to Heaven during a drought after rebuking himself for six things. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Long ago, Emperor Tang offered himself as a sacrifice to heaven during a drought after rebuking himself for six things. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Xuanzong went outside with a censer in his hand, and while standing in the mud, lit incense, looked up at the sky, and repented his mistakes. After a long time, his yellow dragon robe was soaked through. This touched the hearts of all the people around. The rain stopped some time later, and on the following day, the clouds dispersed. When Autumn came, the farmers reaped a bountiful harvest.

Translated by Chua BC and edited by Mikel Davis.

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our weekly email

In Ancient China, Tying Knots Was an Art Form